Boxing has had a hell of a year in 2022 even with what didn’t happen.
No, we aren’t getting Errol Spence-Terence Crawford this year and maybe not ever. Tank Davis-Ryan Garcia will happen in 2023 if interim opponents don’t derail it. Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua in December never felt realistic.
That’s just a few scraps.
A year is twelve months and as US fans get ready to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, this feels like a good time to remind of all the things boxing provided so far this year to be grateful for. It wasn’t long ago that many fans were wondering if this would go down as one of the great years the sport has experienced in the last few decades.
That’s how strong the first half of 2022 was. Fights like Sebastian Fundora-Erickson Lubin and Leigh Wood-Michal Conlan dazzled, Dmitry Bivol confirmed he was as good as some thought he would be all along, Devin Haney arrived as the lightweight king, and Jermell Charlo became the first four-belt undisputed champion at Jr. middleweight.
And the year isn’t over. There are still some excellent scraps on the calendar, including Jose Zepeda-Regis Prograis this weekend and an unexpected clash of blue chip fresh contenders in December between Michel Rivera and Frank Martin.
That’s just a little of what has been and what’s left. Paring it down, here are some things boxing fans can be grateful for in 2022, beginning with a long development in the making.
Women’s Boxing Explodes
BoxingScene’s Thomas Gerbasi has been a leading voice for years for the women’s side of the sport. Corey Erdman and Jake Donovan have also weighed in to see opportunities rise. In 2022, women seized the moment and we may look back on this as a turning point that changed the women’s game for good.
Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano packed Madison Square Garden. The Claressa Shields-Savannah Marshall/Alycia Baumgardner-Mikaela Mayer doubleheader packed the O2. Jr. welterweight champion Chantelle Cameron truly joined the elite of the sport with a lopsided win over welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill. Most importantly, the action in the ring met the moments. They weren’t just notable fights. They were good fights.
And it wasn’t just the biggest fights on the women’s side. Women’s unification matches happened all over the sport from strawweight to super middleweight. Women’s boxing might not have the depth of the men’s side, but it’s best are fighting it’s best.
There’s a lot of that on the men’s side too.
Unification Fever Continues
In 2021, boxing fans saw Saul Alvarez completely unify the super middleweight division and Josh Taylor do the same at Jr. welterweight among other unification clashes. The trend continued and multiplied this year. Additional unification matches at Jr. flyweight, bantamweight, Jr. lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, and light heavyweight trimmed the field of beltholders and gave fans around the world plenty to sink their teeth into.
We’re not done for the year either. In December, Naoya Inoue and Paul Butler should end with the first four-belt titlist at bantamweight and the first undisputed champion in the division since Enrique Pinder. We also have a unification bout on New Year’s Eve in one of boxing’s most reliable domains.
Jr. Bantamweight Delivers Even More
Men who weigh 115 lbs will never be every fan’s cup of tea. For those invested in the golden era at Jr. bantamweight, this has been another stellar year. December will give us a unification clash (Kazuto Ioka-Joshua Franco) and the third fight between Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada for Estrada’s lineal throne. Gonzalez impressed already this year with a schooling of flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez. There was also the emergence of Fernando Martinez against Jerwin Ancajas in two big wins. No weight class gave more in the ring in 2022. Gonzalez and Estrada may be on their way to the Hall of Fame and 2022 reminded how special that place can be with…
A Once in a Lifetime HOF Induction
The International Boxing Hall of Fame can be a source of controversy at times with less than rigid induction standards but this year we were reminded that it’s still a place, an occasion, boxing fans are lucky to have. The COVID pandemic meant two years without induction ceremonies. That meant, for fans who made the trek, that this year they saw the 2020, 2021, and 2022 classes inducted all at once. Floyd Mayweather, James Toney, Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, Andre Ward and others… multiple trips would have been needed to see them all induced under normal circumstances. This year, this one time, we got a special assembly of some of the greatest fistic talent of the last forty years sharing a dais together. Hopkins called it the ‘heaven of the hall of fame.’ It was certainly a heavenly experience to see it in person.
All of 2022 might not have been heaven for boxing fans, but it was a far cry from hell and the best of this year far outweighed the least. It’s plenty to be thankful for.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]